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The air we breathe
Barrett, Andrea.
Adult Fiction BARRETT

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Picking up connected characters from her 1996 National Book Award-winning story collection Ship Fever, the latest from Barrett follows her Pulitzer Prize finalist Servants of the Map. In the fall of 1916, as the U.S. involvement in WWI looms, the Adirondack town of Tamarack Lake houses a public sanitarium and private "cure cottages" for TB patients. Gossip about roommate changes, nurse visits, cliques and romantic connections dominate relations among the sick-mostly poor European immigrants-when they're not on their porches taking their rest cure. Intrigue increases with the arrival of Leo Marburg, an attractive former chemist from Odessa who has spent his years in New York slaving away at a sugar refinery, and of Miles Fairchild, a pompous and wealthy cure cottage resident who decides to start a discussion group, despite his inability to understand many of his fellow patients. As in Joshua Ferris's recent Then We Came to the End, Barrett narrates with a collective "we," the voice of the crowd of convalescents. Details of New York tenements and of the sanitarium's regime are vivid and engrossing. The plot, which hinges on the coming of WWI, has a lock-step logic, but its transparency doesn't take away from the timeliness of its theme: how the tragedy, betrayal and heartbreak of war extend far beyond the battlefield. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

In the early 1900s, patients at the Tamarack State Sanatorium for the Treatment for Tuberculosis are of two different sorts. The wealthy can live in some comfort by renting little chalets, while working-class patients must make do in the barracks-like dormitories. Then factory owner Miles Fairchild crosses the line by proposing a weekly discussion group, which he opens with some pompous lectures on paleontology. Soon the less fortunate patients are revealing a depth of knowledge and experience the condescending Fairchild could not have imagined. Meanwhile, emotional entanglements flare everywhere. Miles falls for Naomi, the wayward girl who drives him to the sanatorium; she's interested in a patient named Leo, trained as a chemist in Russia and now given access to the X-ray equipment by technician Irene. But Leo is forming a bond with Eudora, Naomi's best friend and herself an aspiring technician. It all leads to a very real explosion, with sabotage suspected as America's entry into World War I looms. Miles leads the charge in accusing Leo, and it's heartrending to see how his old friends turn on him. Though not as powerfully written as Barrett's The Voyage of the Narwhal, this is a deft and quietly wrenching tale of human misunderstanding. For most collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/07.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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